Thora Birch as Alana
Derek Magyar as Todd
Gloria Votsis as Claire
Kavan Reece as Sheldon
Gideon Emery as Willy
Directed by Gideon Raff
Train is about as bad as one expects. The last gasp in whatever torture-fueled tripe Hostel, and its sequel, stirred up two years ago and continues to be felt today. This Nu Image production (screened at Hollywood’s Screamfest) began as a remake of the ’80s slasher film Terror Train, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, but writer-director Gideon Raff considered his departure from Roger Spottiswoode’s original different, it was simply titled Train – thus losing the “terror”…in more ways than one, as a matter of fact. Someone forgot to tell Raff and company this film needed to be scary. Instead an intense right through foreign territory playing to fish out of water themes, Train is a series of robust gore gags hanging by a weak thread of a plot that struggles to emulate Hostel (with a helping of Turistas) beat for beat.
The similarities begin in Eastern Europe where an American wrestling team has completed one match and is due to board a train for their next destination. Rather than get the shut-eye their coach demands of them, a small group – including Alana, her boyfriend Todd, assistant coach Willy, Claire and Sheldon – opt to hit the town, specifically a night club. There, Sheldon and Todd creep into the backroom where there’s all sorts of sexual debauchery taking place. But Todd’s will is good and he remains faithful to Alana. Nevertheless, some amount of trouble is kicked up, a fight breaks out and the gang limps back to their hotel in the early hours of the morning.
To no one’s surprise, they learn they’ve missed their train and so, with one pissed off coach, they board the next scheduled ride on the rails. It’s obvious immediately there’s something amiss on this train, yet the dullards who serve as our protagonists fail to see that. The “personnel” (you can’t really call them conductors) aboard are a sleazy lot. Bruised, soiled and leering, they guide Alana and her pals to their respective rooms and then ask for their passports(!) – to prevent thieves from getting them, is their excuse. With little thought, Alana agrees to hand hers over. Before more stupendously retarded decisions are made, we’re given some character time with the gang through a “Truth or Dare” match and good ol’ fashioned game of “Spin the Bottle” (I’m not making this up).
When Todd is dared to run from one end of the train to the other dressed in his jock strap, the massacre begins as he wanders into one train car that serves as an abattoir. He’s attacked by a thug, bearing a resemblance to director Stuart Gordon, and is subsequently beaten and slowly stripped of his organs. Naturally, when Todd doesn’t return, Alana expresses concern. The rest of the film follows the search for her man as the wrestling team is picked off by the train’s crew, including a blonde female doctor whose sinister plans all come to the fore by Train‘s ludicrous finale.
There are very little surprises to be had in a film whose opening credits sequence consists a of body mutilation montage. All of Train‘s cards are laid out on the table in the first two minutes and it never tops itself. Where some horror films would gradually build steam to revelation like this, Train goes right for the throat and ultimately shoots itself in the foot. From this point on, there’s very little dread and there’s nothing particularly horrifying about the film. Raff eschews class for overt thrills turning an indiscriminate eye towards the wanton violence.
The FX – created by seasoned vets like Richard Redlefson, Michael Mosher and Dean Jones – are extreme and plausible. I don’t think there’s a single body part that doesn’t avoid some sort of scooping, impaling or cutting. One creative gag features an exposed spine and chisel, but its lasting effect is wasted on this desensitized writer who has seen countless Hostel copycats that try to outdo themselves in the grue department.
Birch sleepwalks through the film perhaps curious as to what she did to get herself into such a mess of a production that defies all logic in its finale. For example, without giving too much away, one character proves to be the equivalent of a circus strongman who literally pushes a train car to get to his prey hiding underneath. And if you guessed Alana would get to use a wrestling move she learned from her boyfriend (“Just spread your legs, like this!”) at the beginning of the film, you’d guess correctly. Not only does she use it on the main baddie, it comes complete with a flashback of her previous tutorial!
Train is a brainless, brazen cash-in on a waning trend. Strangely enough, the home of Hostel, Lionsgate, has picked it up for distribution, but I don’t see Train going anywhere but direct-to-DVD where it will rust in the bargain bin.